Hero World Challenge: Preview and Tips

Hero World Challenge, Albany Golf Club, Bahamas

Course

This week the eyes of the entire golfing world will turn to the Hero World Challenge as Tiger Woods makes his latest comeback to competitive golf after 8 months of recuperation. The 14 time major winner is currently ranked 1199 in the world but says the pain in his back is finally gone. Will the Hero World Challenge be the stepping stone in the return of one of the greats…

It is impossible not to mention Tiger and all the talk is that he has been hitting the ball a mile. He played alongside Dustin Johnson last week in a round with the President and the report was that he outdrove Dusty half of the time. The Wolf says not to get ahead of ourselves but if he can stay injury free and get some consistent golf under his belt we should see his game improve at a rapid rate. He has started just three events since August 2015 so it will take time.

The tournament will be played at the Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas as it has been since 2015. The course is about 7300 yards in length and has been designed by Ernie Els. It is a different kind of Par-72 that the players will encounter because of the five Par-5’s and five Par 3’s.

There is no rough so players have no option but to hit the fairways but that is not something too difficult considering the width on offer. Greens are pristine and lined with bermuda grass with minimal elevation changes allowing players to be aggressive with the putter.

The weather is expected to start out a little wet but improve as the weekend rolls on. Weather can change quickly in these parts of the world and so it is a variable that needs to be considered each day of the tournament.

Tournament Overview

The field for this tournament is limited to only 18 players but it is a star studded group. It includes the most recent three major champions, the top-11 players (available to play) from the official golf rankings, and a couple of players selected by the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Winning this tournament is all about being aggressive and scoring on courses that may not always be the most challenging. Bubba Watson won this tournament in 2015 and Hideki Matsuyama won it in 2016 by two shots from Henrik Stenson.

Each and every one of the players in the field is capable of winning this tournament but most of the eyes will be on Tiger Woods. Considered by many as the greatest golfer of all time, Woods has been struggling with injury, addictions, and a public fallout from his personal relationships breaking down. The Wolf thinks if Woods can get through four rounds without breaking down or seeming in too much pain and enjoying being out there again then that will be the biggest gain for golf from this tournament.

Players that can crush the ball off the tee will be at an advantage in this tournament with the five Par 5’s and wide fairways that allow them to be really aggressive. It is going to be all about scoring this week.

Stats That Matter

Nothing matters more in this tournament than the ability to score. Players are competing at a golf course that will struggle to test their full capabilities and so sitting back will not be an option. The Wolf is looking at the following stats:

– Strokes Gained: Putting
– Driving Distance
– Birdie or Better Percentage

The two years that the tournament has been played at Albany, the winning scores have been 263 (-25) for Bubba Watson in 2015 and 270 (-18) for Hideki Matsuyama in 2016. The Wolf expects the winning score to be somewhere in between these two this year but definitely in the 260’s.

There are plenty of players here that have a good knowledge of the course like Henrik Stenson who has two runner-up finishes in the last three years with one coming at Albany in 2016 and Justin Rose who has been living in the Bahamas full time for the last few years now.

Predictions

It is difficult to predict the winners of this tournament, more so than the others, because the somewhat relaxed nature of the gameplay and the highly limited field can make players veer from their natural game. That being said, the possibility of getting a pick right is always more in such a small field!

The Wolf, however, feels that the spotlight this year will make the players much more competitive and eager to register a victory.

The Wolf has Rickie Fowler at $10.00 on top. Fowler is one of the longest drivers of the golf ball in the world at the moment and can couple it with some excellent precision off the tee as well. He is rated as 2nd in birdie or better percentage and even though his putting has not been at the level he expects, the greens at Albany are not going to challenge him too much. Fowler finished tied for 2nd in the BMW Championship recently and can be considered in fine form going into this tournament.

Kevin Kisner at $26.00 get the nod as the value pick this week. He has a tendency to do well in stacked fields and has all the tools in his box to win regularly. He keeps things very tight around the greens, is very handy with the putter and consistently ranks at the top in strokes gained categories.  A form player, Kisner recorded a T3 at the Tour Championship and was T4 at the RSM Classic. The Wolf believes that at this price, he has been grossly undervalued by the market.

Now for the wildcard. With a limited field there are no big prices this week but Tommy Fleetwood at $29.00 is worth a nibble. The market has given him odds better than only five other golfers in the field and that in the Wolf’s opinion is once again a glaring error. Fleetwood has finished in the top-20 of his last six tournaments with a T10 just a couple of weeks ago to be in excellent form. He also finished 4th in the US Open earlier in the year. With a driver that can be destructive and an excellent iron game at his disposal, this is exactly the kind of course where Fleetwood can run riot. At $29.00, he is well worth a punt.

Recommended Bets

Tournament Winner

Best: Rickie Fowler ($10.00)
Value: Kevin Kisner ($26.00)
Roughie: Tommy Fleetwood ($29.00)

Tournament By Country

Top USA: Rickie Fowler ($8.00)
Top Rest of World: Justin Rose ($2.90)

72 Hole Match Bets

Big 6 v Field: The Field ($2.90)
Big 3 vs Field: The Field ($2.35)
Thomas vs Spieth: Justin Thomas ($1.83)
Fowler vs Koepka: Rickie Fowler ($1.90)

Round 1 – 2 Balls

Thomas vs Woods:  Justin Thomas ($1.50)
Hoffman vs Chappell: Charley Hoffman ($1.98)

Tiger Woods BuildABet

Tiger Makes An Eagle In Event ($2.25)
Tiger Birdie/better 1st Hole Of Event ($4.00)

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